30 December 2006

Why so quiet about the iTV?

One of the most interesting things that I know is comming from Apple is the iTV. Sure, I have a modified XBox and all that, but the iTV does the same thing as the iPod once did. It makes something easier. At least that is what I have to assume. If someone would have made dedicated hardware for XBox Media Center and a good remote to boot and sold it, it would outshine a lot of the HTPC's out there. Complicated beasts that can do a million things. My guess is that the iTV will be simple. Just a little bigger iPod, and it will let me watch or listen to anything I buy from the iTunes store, in my living room, easily. That is more exciting for me than any kind of mobile / cellular phone. There are already excellent mobiles out there. For instance the Sony Ericsson K610i (which I haven't made a single thing for, so nobody can blame me for being biased there:)).

What is more important though, is the connection between the iTV and the iTunes store. With XBMC or any HTPC you can play all sorts of video formats. Probably a whole lot more video formats than with the iTV. You also have a chance to extend them quite a bit. Directly looking at youtube for instance. This the iTV won't do. Well, maybe youtube, but then it will do so from the box. And I am totally sure someone will make Linux or NetBSD run on the iTV. But the important thing remains. iTV is directly linked to Apple's online iTunes store. Click, and you legally will download music, TV series, and Movies. That does more to fight piracy than everything the assholes from MPAA and RIAA have ever done. Bullshit should make a show about them...

But is everything rosy? Surely can't I be this positive about anything? Well, no, I can't. I have a few "itches" that needs scratching with the iTV. First up, quality. 480p isn't really that great for an HDTV. 720p would be acceptable, but the option of getting 1080p surely must be a lot better. $1.99 for 480p, $2.49 for 720p, and $2.99 for 1080p would work, but $0.99 for 480p and $1.99 for 720/1080p would be far far better. So the iTV must be able to play these resolutions without pause, and it has to be able to output them to a TV without grief. This means HDMI 1.3 thank you. HDMI 1.3 really is the answer to so many many problems. Digital baby, digital!

Which brings me to my next BIG grief. Sound. I really don't like any kind of matrix format, so stereo out from the iTV into a receiver for Dolby Pro Logic (II) is not good, not good at all. And listening to Mr. Jobs surely makes me believe that this is the awful truth of the matter. I'm sure it will feature some kind of digital sound out, but why would I want PCM stereo, DD, or even DTS (which really is so much nicer than the others)? I want HDMI 1.3 (can anyone see a trend?) as that means that I can get any surround sound codec to decode on the iTV and send the sound over to a receiver to play in glorious digital surround. Simple, elegant, nifty. Problem free.

With my two major griefs fixed, I could enjoy 1080p (if I owned an iTV and a 1080p projector or TV that is) trailers, TV series, and movies at my own home. And downloading a movie from iTunes (please, please lower the prices! I will never buy from you if the movie can be bought for the same price on DVD/HD-DVD/Blue-ray.) as well as getting 1080p TV series will put me ahead of the general HDTV race here in Sweden. Heck Apple, you have the chance to change how people get their media here. Not just a little downloading of music, but really being the number one way to obtain video material. The HDTV programming you can get through satellite here is close to nothing, and there are far far more people with a fast enough internet connection than people owning a dish.

Which brings me to one more grief. Tear down the borders, please! Why can't I in Sweden, with my own money, buy from the US store? And if you don't want that, why can't I buy TV-series and movies at the Swedish iTunes store? The alternative is spellt XVid, not Kanal 5. Well, I do watch Kanal 5 for my Grey's Anatomy fix, but there are shows not on TV, and it is easy to miss one episode and totally screw things up. And I don't have any recording capabilities in my crappy Canal Digital box, and I surely don't want a separate recorder (if you don't understand why, you are reading the wrong blog:)). Solution? iTV + HDTV + HDMI 1.3 + let_me_buy_it. That's it, after that I can get rid of the stupid ways of getting programming. And with all the money I could save on not having to pay my TV license, I can buy a WHOLE lot of iTunes material. Stuff I will watch! Heck, maybe SVT should start selling stuff on iTunes. Wouldn't that be a funny twist? :)